You are the main character in your best story.
In his book Taking Care: Thoughts on Storytelling and Belief, writer (and my mentor) William Kittredge compared stories to maps that tell us how to get where we want to go. Stories “help us see, and reinvent ourselves.”
Then he said that stories are more than maps. They are our selves.
Here’s that quote.
What we are is stories. We do things because of what is called character, and our character is formed by the stories we learn to live in. Late in the night we listen to our own breathing in the dark, and rework our stories, and we do it again the next morning, and all day long, through the looking glass of ourselves, reinventing our purposes. Without storytelling it’s hard to recognize ultimate reasons why one action is more essential than another.
As Kittredge was saying, we lie in bed, waiting on sleep, and we work up the narratives of our lives—who we will marry, what home we will buy, how we’ll raise our children, what we’ll do with a tax refund.
You Are the Main Character
So far I’ve listed two metaphors for stories, given to us by Kittredge. Stories are maps, stories are our selves. We are, then, our main protagonist. Our best story is the story of the life we’re living.
If every human is a character in an important story, and
- if stories are maps,
- if they are pipelines to our hearts,
- if they are the leaves that build the soil of our culture,
- if they are medicine, boats, rivers, spider webs, mycelium; and
- if they are permanently a part of human evolution
- if they are transformative and the route into empathy,
then the job of the writer starts looking very important. Writers begin to look like change-makers, like cultural creatives, like thought leaders, like holy people.
Do you see what I’m doing here?
I’m letting you know that yours is a big job. I hope this thought makes you feel like what you are doing is life-giving, even sacred.
I hope it makes you want to devote time to it and get good at it.
If you are the main character, be a great one.
Speaking of Your Best Story
I’m teaching a beginning memoir class starting in October. This is a space for you to “Write Your Own Story.” Every week we’ll add a couple of pieces to the pile of bricks that could become your memoir.
There are no requirements for this course. You can be a rank beginner.
It’s entirely affordable. It’s 10 weeks, an hour a week, Mondays during the noon hour. Of all the courses I teach, this is the best value—only $225.
If you have questions of yourself and your work that you are trying to get answered, this course could help you get there.
What you get–
- A stellar semester spent writing
- Ten 1-hour sessions of guidance on writing structure, technique, and craft
- An engaging class that you look forward to all week
- Dozens of writing prompts
- Pages of important, useful handouts in pdf form
- Honest, authentic interest in your story & belief in you
- Opportunities to ask questions of Janisse Ray weekly
- Information on printing, binding, & publishing
- Engagement with other writers
- Access to online co-working sessions
- A chance to read your work in an online Open Mic
& a sincere desire to try your hand at writing